Gross Says Good Times Are Over With Markets Set to Fall

Bill Gross, the former manager of the world’s largest bond fund, said prices for many assets will fall this year as record-low interest rates fail to restore sufficient economic growth.

With global expansion still sputtering after years of interest rates near zero, investors will gradually seek alternatives to risky assets, Gross wrote today in an investment outlook for Janus Capital Group Inc., where he runs the $1.2 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund.

“When the year is done, there will be minus signs in front of returns for many asset classes,” Gross, 70, wrote in the outlook. “The good times are over.”

Six years after the end of the financial crisis, borrowing costs in the world’s richest nations are stuck near zero, a sign investors have little confidence that their economies will strengthen. Gross, the former chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co. who left that firm in September to join Janus, has argued the Federal Reserve won’t raise interest rates until late this year if at all as falling oil prices and a stronger U.S. dollar limit the central bank’s room to increase borrowing costs.

Timing Markets

While timing the end of a bull market is difficult, the next 12 months will probably see a turning point, Gross wrote.

“Knowing when the ‘crowd’ has had enough is an often frustrating task, and it behooves an individual with a reputation at stake to stand clear,” he wrote. “As you know, however, moving out of the way has never been my style.”

Even as the U.S. economy expanded at a 5 percent annualized pace, the fastest since the three months ended in September 2003, tumbling oil prices and concerns Greece will exit the euro have sent American equities to the biggest decline to start a year since 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 0.9 percent at 4 p.m. in New York for a fifth day of declines. The gauge rallied 11 percent in 2014 and 30 percent the prior year.

Gross, who earned his reputation by building Pimco into a $2 trillion money manager with some of the industry’s highest returns, has in recent years stumbled in the bond market. His former flagship fund, the Pimco Total Return Fund, trailed a majority of competitors three out of the past four years.

Selling Treasuries

In 2011, he took a hit after selling Treasuries in preparation for the end of a three-decade long bull market. Treasuries rallied that year, returning 9.8 percent, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data, as investors rushed to the safety of government-backed debt amid a European sovereign-debt crisis. As his fund trailed rivals in 2011, Gross called the year a “stinker” in a letter to clients titled “Mea Culpa.”

U.S. government debt has returned 16 percent since the end of 2010. The benchmark U.S. 10-year yield tumbled to 1.94 percent today and the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Sovereign Plus Index had an effective yield of 1.28 percent as of yesterday, the lowest based on data starting in 1996.

After rebounding in 2012, Pimco Total Return again trailed peers in 2013 as Gross emphasized shorter-term debt over longer-dated securities. He left the money manager he co-founded in 1971 to join Denver-based Janus after losing a power struggle with management and some of his deputies.

Bond Performance

The Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, run by Gross since Oct. 6, has lost 0.8 percent in the past three months, trailing 51 percent of comparable funds, according to data from Chicago-based research firm Morningstar Inc.

Gross said in today’s commentary that zero or even in some cases negative yields ultimately fail to generate sufficient economic growth. Corporate leaders willingly borrow money, but mostly to reduce outstanding shares instead of investing in the real economy, he wrote.

Investors should hold high-quality assets with stable cash flows, such as Treasuries, high-quality corporate bonds, and stocks of companies with little debt and attractive dividends.

“With moments of liquidity having already been experienced in recent months, 2015 may see a continuing round of musical chairs as riskier asset categories become less and less desirable,” Gross wrote.

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